Northern lights reflecting in Plum Lake

Capturing Vilas County’s beautiful starry-night skies

  • Northern lights and star trails over wintry Plum Lake
  • Plum Lake star trails and northern lights
  • Foot prints on snow-covered Plum Lake with northern lights
  • Milk Way over Plum Lake
  • Moon over Crystal Lake
  • Northern lights reflecting in Plum Lake
Photos and article by Kate Reichl

My love for the night sky started when I was just a kid, as early as I can remember. I grew up on the south shore of Plum Lake in Sayner, which was the perfect spot to see the night sky. Growing up one of my favorite things to do (and my familys) was to take our boat out on the lake at night, we called it a midnight boat-ride. Once out on the lake you can see so many stars since there isn’t any light pollution near Sayner. That is where it all began. As I got older I realized that I wanted to be able to take photos of what I was seeing and share my view with others. It wasn’t until I was 18 that I got my first camera and started learning how to photograph the night sky. Being that I lived on the south shore of the lake, I was also able to look across the water and see the northern lights.

There are many different types of astrophotography. There are star trails, single exposure, and photographing objects in space like the moon or planets. My favorite is a single exposure with landscape. When I take these photos there’s a lot of planning that goes into it before I even start the exposure. For example, where is the milky way and do I want it in my shot? Or is there a light in the foreground/landscape that will mess up the photo? Once I figure out what I actually want to take the photo of and set up my camera to be looking in that direction, comes setting the focus. You’ll always want your focus (manual) to be set to or around infinity. When it comes to settings a good place to start is the lowest aperture your lens will go, for me that’s usually 2.8 since I love my Sigma 14-24mm lens for astrophotography. For exposure 15 seconds is a good place to start, and an ISO of 1000. Then I take some test pictures to make sure that the focus is right along with the settings. If the settings/focus need to be tweaked, the test pictures are the time to figure that out. Then set a timer so that there are a few seconds between when you press to take the photo and the photo is actually taken, just to make sure there isn’t any extra movement. If you’re doing a single exposure, that’s all you’ll need. If I plan on photographing the northern lights, the set-up is the same and it just comes down to tweaking those settings.

If you plan on doing star trails to a time-lapse, you’ll need to use an intervalometer. Some cameras have these built in, and other times you have to buy an external one. These devices let you take multiple shots in a row, and at certain intervals. This way your camera will take multiple photos over the course of a few hours to get the photos that you need to make star trails or a time-lapse later on in processing. Make sure you have a large SD card, the number of photos needed to create star trails and time lapses can sometimes reach into the 100GB+ range. To process these types of projects I use Lightroom, Photoshop, and sometimes StarStax.

Another piece of equipment that you don’t necessarily need, but could help, is a tracker. These devices track the stars so that you can get longer exposures without creating star trails from the movement of the Earth. This will help fainter stars and more details show up in your photos. I personally use the iOptron SkyTracker pro.

I have a few different camera set ups when it comes to taking photos of the night sky, that way I can make the most of my time by having multiple set ups each night. But by far my favorite setup is my Canon 6DMKII with a Sigma 14-24mm lens, along with the iOptron tracker. The Canon 6DMKII has a built in intervalometer so I don’t need to connect and external one. This set up is great for wide landscape-astrophotography.

Photographing the night sky takes knowledge in your equipment, post processing workflows, and astronomy. Although it also takes a love for the night sky and a want to share its beauty and mystery. Humans have always looked up to the night sky in wonder and curiosity, and thanks to modern technology we are able to share that wonder with each other.

Regulation of wake boats: an opportunity to provide input…

2022 Spring Hearing Citizen Resolution Additional Instructions

Once logged in you will be asked “Would you like to provide input to citizen resolutions submitted for your county of residence?”  ANSWER YES to this question

 The  hazardous wake resolution numbers for Vilas County are 640822, 640922, 641122 and 641222.  Please make sure to respond to those resolutions.

04/12/2022

As we reported recently in the VCLRA report on Wake Boats in our winter newsletter (pages 6-7), the growing popularity of wake boats presents challenges on state lakes. On the one hand, water sports and recreational boating generates tourist dollars. On the other hand, there is the potential for enhanced shoreline erosion due to their energetic waves. The enhanced wakes can also endanger other swimmers and boaters, as well as disturb water fowl nesting sites on the water’s edge. Because wake boats are weighted in the rear so that the propwash has a downward angle, they may stir up bottom sediments, uproot aquatic plants, disturb fish habitat and potentially releasing toxins that have settled to the bottom.

The public has an opportunity to influence state regulations through the 2022 Spring Hearing online input sponsored by The Wisconsin Conservation Congress (WCC), which is a liaison between the citizens of Wisconsin, the Natural Resources Board (NRB) and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).  Its purpose is to provide an avenue for public input and exchange concerning conservation issues in Wisconsin.  Pending approval by the Wisconsin Legislature, what started as a Citizen Resolution can become a Wisconsin rule/law.  To that end, WCC has submitted several proposed Citizen Resolution questions for Vilas County and Dane county. If these resolution questions pass the first step, they will follow the process toward a hazardous wake resolution at the state level.  If successful, current State boating regulations and statutes could be changed to regulate wake boats.

How can I find the online input option?

The link will be placed on the DNR’s Spring Hearing webpage and can be found at https://dnr.wisconsin.gov. Type in “Spring Hearings” in the search box.

How do I provide input using the online option?

The online form is being run through “Survey Monkey”.  Once you sign in, simply read and follow the directions.

When can I provide my online input?

The link will go live on Monday, April 11, 2022 at 7:00 PM CDT and will remain open for three days (until 7:00 PM CDT on Thursday, April 14).  Each person can provide input once for each of the survey questions.

Do I have to provide input on all the questions?

No, just answer “NO OPINION” on questions you do not want to answer.

For additional information:

The 2022 Spring Hearing Online Input FAQ is here: https://dnr.wisconsin.gov/sites/default/files/topic/About/WCC/2022/SpringHearing/2022_Spring_Hearing_Online_Input_FAQ_V4.pdf

The VCLRA report on Wake Boats in the 2021-22 winter newsletter (posted on https://vclra.org/newsletter-archive/) also provides useful references on experiences with wake boats in several states, as well as research on lake impacts due to enhanced wakes.

2022 Six-County Lakes & Rivers Conference

Lake group leaders and members from six northern Wisconsin counties will convene for a discussion of the environmental impacts of wakeboats, the proliferation of short-term rentals, and other issues related lake recreational capacity on Friday, July 15th. The annual lakes event will return to an in-person event and is sponsored jointly by Oneida and Vilas County Lakes and Rivers Associations.

2022 Northwoods Six-County Lakes & Rivers Conference on July 15th to highlight wakeboats and lake capacity issues

The effects of enhanced wakes from wakeboarding and wakesurfing have been the subject of great concern and extensive scientific research in recent years. Meanwhile, concern is rising about the short-term rentals of lakefront homes and cabins and how they affect lake water quality, lake crowding, and the integrity of lakefront neighborhoods.

Other topics at the annual Six-County Lakes Meeting, from 8:30 am to noon at Nicolet College in Rhinelander, will include aquatic invasive species prevention, lake access and viewing corridors on lakefront properties, and an update on state legislation and policy related to water resources. Attendees are expected from Oneida, Vilas, Forest, Langlade, Lincoln, and Iron counties. VCLRA and OCLRA will separately also host their annual meetings immediately following the event.

See draft agenda for more details. Updates may follow as the agenda is finalized.

For more information, contact Steve Budnik (VCLRA) at 715-686-7852 or skbudnik@centurytel.net, Bob Martini (OCLRA) at 715-282-5896 or bobmartini@charter.net, or, use the contact form here: vclra.org/contact/.